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Mike Nolan steps down as Chargers linebackers coach, don't panic yet

It would be rather astonishing if Mike Nolan ended up returning to the San Francisco 49ers, but would anything really actually surprise you at this point?

The San Francisco 49ers coaching search trudges on, and as names high on the list are crossed off, odds increase that the 49ers will hire someone that a lot of fans will not like. They might still pull a rabbit out of the hat, but things are a little dicey right now. And the latest news I'm seeing might be unrelated, but is something to at least keep in the back of your head, in the deep, dark, scary recesses of your mind.

Now, this could be his pursuit of a defensive coordinator position, something with a college, or heck, he might just want to go sell insurance. Who knows, but I bring it up for one reason. Three weeks ago, Tim Kawakami put together an article in which he looked at potential coaching candidates if the 49ers fired Jim Tomsula. He included Mike Nolan as a practical candidate, but acknowledged that people might laugh at the notion. Here's what TK said back on December 22:

Don't laugh: He remains a favorite of 49ers management.

The Yorks love nothing more than familiarity and yes they're very familiar with-and fond of-Nolan from his three-plus seasons coaching the 49ers. (Before Mike Singletary who was before Harbaugh who was before Tomsula.)

OK, those weren't very good 49ers years, but the Yorks enjoy grading on a curve, and at this point, after 4-10 with Tomsula, Nolan's rebuild (alongside McCloughan) seems like a positively uplifting experience.

Nolan is 56, rarin' for another head coaching job, and I know Jed York still thinks wistfully of the image-conscious, babbling, PR-driven Nolan era.

Problem: Nolan is wholly 100% only defense, as he proved during his 49ers stint. He is clueless about the QB.

But Nolan has good NFL connections-his first 49ers OC was Mike McCarthy, his second one was Norv Turner. It's possible Nolan could hook up with another strong OC and sell himself to the Yorks again.

I can say this: The more York wearied of Harbaugh, the more he pined for the Nolan days, and that's what led to Tomsula the last search. Also remember: York reportedly cried when he had to fire Nolan in 2008.

Hey, maybe the 49ers can hire Nolan, then use their first-round pick on a QB that Nolan can totally screw up (and pass on a Cal QB along the way).

Again, none of this means Mike Nolan will be the next head coach of the 49ers...again. But the random departure of Nolan from San Diego is enough to at least give us pause....and send a cold shiver down our backs. The 49ers had focused entirely on offensive-minded coaches. The addition of Tom Coughlin opened the door to other options, and if neither Coughlin or Jackson works out, who's to say the 49ers don't move on to a defensive-minded option?